More people are using ad-blockers. Here’s one reason why.

An article over on Mashable talks about the increasing number of people using ad-blocking apps in their web browsers and how various sites are fighting back against the trend:

Websites know you’re using ad-blockers, and they’re coming for you.

Thanks to software that can detect whether a site visitor is using a blocker, websites can now direct messages at these readers, jam ads through to them anyway or even withhold stories. Uneasy publishers are increasingly turning to startups that give them the ability to detect and pierce through ad blockers, such as Sourcepoint and Pagefair.

Now, as a general rule, I don’t run an ad-blocker because I understand that it costs money to run a website in part because I maintain several myself; not the least of which is this blog. In fact the account I maintain to host blogs for my mother, sister, and a couple of friends costs me about $120 a year and its annual renewal is due this week and that’s not counting the monthly cost for the virtual server for SEB. You may also note that I have a couple of ads on SEB including a promo for Amazon on the sidebar and some Google Adsense ads at the bottom of each page. I also make use of Amazon affiliate links when talking about a product. None of that generates enough revenue to pay for the sites (I’m lucky if I get any money from them in a given year), but it makes for a couple bucks here and there.

So I can understand and I’m fine with a page having ads on it, but I’d be lying if I said that I never run an ad-blocker. I keep one installed because advertisers aren’t satisfied with having a rectangular banner at the top of the page or a square ad in the sidebar. Increasingly there’s been this trend of slapping a huge, full-screen ad right in the middle of whatever the fuck I’m trying to read 5 to 10 seconds after I started reading. I’m talking bullshit like this:

YOU WILL WATCH THIS AD FOR TEA REGARDLESS OF WHETHER YOU WILL EVER BUY OUR PRODUCT!

YOU WILL WATCH THIS AD FOR TEA REGARDLESS OF WHETHER YOU WILL EVER BUY OUR PRODUCT!

I don’t drink tea. You could come up with a tea that causes multiple orgasms and piles of gold to spontaneously appear at my feet and I still wouldn’t drink it because tea is disgusting, but you’re going to insist I watch your fucking tea ad.

HEY! STOP WHAT YOU'RE DOING AND WATCH THIS PROMO FOR A COMPANY YOU WILL NEVER DIRECTLY DEAL WITH YOURSELF!

HEY! STOP WHAT YOU’RE DOING AND WATCH THIS PROMO FOR A COMPANY YOU WILL NEVER DIRECTLY DEAL WITH YOURSELF!

I’ve never understood why Boeing feels the need to advertise to the general public. Do they sell anything to the vast majority of people? They seem to have a rather niche market. What the fuck happened to the idea of targeted ads?

WE'RE KFC! CHECK OUT THIS HILARIOUS AD WITH OUR NEW FAKE COLONEL SANDERS IN IT! WHY IT'S SO FUNNY IT'S LIKE WATCHING A MOVIE!

WE’RE KFC! CHECK OUT THIS HILARIOUS AD WITH OUR NEW FAKE COLONEL SANDERS IN IT! WHY IT’S SO FUNNY IT’S LIKE WATCHING A MOVIE!

I like KFC. I shouldn’t because I’m fat and it’s not healthy, but I like it just the same. You don’t need to hard-sell me, or probably very many other fat people, on KFC. All this does is make me not like KFC as much because they’re getting in the fucking way of the article I’m trying to read.

The first link is bullshit just from the headline alone and I couldn't give less of a shit about some billionaire's girlfriend.

The first link is bullshit just from the headline alone and I couldn’t give less of a shit about some billionaire’s girlfriend, but this is still better than a full screen ad.

It’s bad enough that a lot of the small, square ads these days feature auto-playing videos with the sound at full volume. That’s annoying enough without it taking up the ENTIRE FUCKING SCREEN. When I come across these ads the first thing I look for is the close button and I hit it before it has a chance to get more than 5 seconds into its spiel. I don’t care what you’re advertising. Even if it’s something that I might be interested in, the surest way to make certain I don’t hear about it is with a giant popup ad in the middle of a webpage. No close button? Then it’s the reload page button. Ad comes up again? Out comes the ad-blocker and now you’re not getting any revenue from my page visit because fuck you and your giant fucking ads in the middle of the content.

This is coming from a guy who will put up with multiple ads along the top, bottom, and sides of a webpage. Hell, I’ll put up with them being wedged awkwardly between every two or three paragraphs of the content itself — like some sites I visit currently do — so long as I can still read the content I went there for in the first place. I’ll even put up with the obvious bullshit click-bait ads being repeated over and over and over again on so many sites like the one here to the right despite the fact that I will never, in a million years, ever click on that ad.

According to one estimate sites are losing out on some big cash thanks to the increase in ad-blocker usage:

A widely cited report from Adobe and anti-ad blocker startup Pagefair estimates that ad blockers could cost the industry $21.8 billion in lost revenue this year — though the figure may have been overinflated by faulty economic reasoning — and that usage grew 41% in the last year.

So it’s no wonder they’re trying to fight back, but surely there’s a compromise that can be found between no advertising at all and loud and obnoxious full screen unstoppable auto-playing video ads. There are a handful of sites I’ve stopped going to altogether because it’s such a pain in the ass wading through all the popup advertisements to get to the content I went there for in the first place. I don’t want to turn my ad-blocker on, but some of these websites are making it harder and harder not to do so. And that’s not even getting into the topic of how many ad services these days are doing a piss-poor job of keeping malicious malware spreading ads out of their systems.

Scale it back a bit and I think you’ll find more people will shut off their ad-blockers. Keep going the way you’re going and it’ll just be an arms race to see who can out program the other.

The MPAA: Clueless and built to stay that way

It’s clear that the present leadership in the MPAA is part of the problem. They don’t understand the Internet, they didn’t take the time to understand it, they just rushed out and started trying to legislate it. Not to mention they didn’t even try to develop for it until file sharing was already deeply entrenched. It’s going to take a new generation of Internet savvy people moving up into the leadership roles before it’ll get any better. #seb #MPAA #Internet #piracy

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MPAA’s number two admits industry “not comfortable” with the Internet
A great Mike Masnick Techdirt editorial deals with MPAA second-in-command Michael O’Leary’s statement that, “[the Internet is] a platform we’re not at this point comfortable with.”

The MPAA’s O’Leary concedes that the industry was out-manned and outgunned in cyberspace. He says the MPAA “is [undergoing] a process of education, a process of getting a much, much greater presence in the online environment. This was a fight on a platform we’re not at this point comfortable with, and we were goi…

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I admit it, It’s my fault.

Had trouble getting to your favorite websites yesterday? Seems there was some trouble in AT&T land thanks to an issue here in Michigan:

“At about 9:30 a.m. CST on Dec. 28, a power failure impacted an AT&T facility in Bloomfield, MI,” state and AT&T spokesperson. “This situation has resulted in intermittent disruption of mobile services for customers in some Midwest states.” The spokesperson went on to use the hideous word “impacted” a few more times in explaining that technicians had restored power and were trying to fix the network.

Bloomfield is way north of Detroit, MI, but the latter town may have been the site of some Level3 backbone problems that caused outages at a number of sites today, including Ars. A post at the SANS Internet Storm Center indicates that many of that site’s readers are fingering the Detroit area as the outage’s source and citing the Internet Health Report (which seems to indicate that things are fine right now) as evidence that Level3 is to blame. TechCrunch has a screenshot of the IHR when it was lighting up red for Level3, and some of the comments list a few of the other major sites that were down.

Bloomfield isn’t THAT far north of Detroit—about a 37 minute drive—unless they don’t mean Bloomfield Hills, which is what I suspect they actually mean, because Bloomfield Michigan isn’t even in an AT&T service area.

Anyway, while the above affected mostly cellphone users (our cell phones were dead for most of the day) it appears that there’s been a number of other problems in several Midwest states that affected the Internet as well:

Forum and blog posts, like this post on the Dataoutages New Blog, indicate that the network outages have hit several Midwestern states, with Indiana, North and South Dakota, and Ohio affected alongside the aforementioned Illinois and Michigan problems.

Personally I thought it was all the time I was spending watching porn on the Internet that was clogging up the tubes, but I’ll be happy to let you guys blame it on some other vague problem that has nothing to do with me.

Someone at the Statesman Journal is an Internet geek.

Just look at the headline they used for Obama’s victory:


Click to embiggen!

It’s always amusing to see Internet memes show up in mainstream institutions.

Found over at Neatorama where they have images of Obama wins headlines from a bunch of different papers.

 

KPG says: “We are freaks.” And I concur.

There’s a very good entry over at SEB regular KPatrickGlover’s blog titled We Are Freaks. It’s about how those of us who spend way more time than we probably should on the Internet have all these inside jokes and memes we’ve been exposed to that the vast majority of people in the world haven’t:

Try this little experiment. Pick a public place, a grocery store, a bar, maybe a mall. Stand there with a clip board and ask random strangers what their favorite lolcat is. Ask them if they know that longcat is looonnnggg. See if they know who Anonymous is locked in battle against.

We have this weird disconnect with the world these days. The internet has provided us with such a detailed method of social interaction and we have formed amazing communities around it. Places where we interact with hundreds, even thousands of people. We spend so much time there, that it’s easy to forget that most of the people around us in real life, well, don’t.

And when we start saying things like “Jesus Christ, it’s a lion, get in the car”, they just sort of stare at us blankly. It’s a situation I’ve become adjusted to and even enjoy. I like those blank stares. I like being in on the joke, no matter how stupid the joke may be.

I’d never really sat down and thought about this before, but it’s definitely true because I’m often trying to explain to other people why something stupid I just said is actually really, really funny. Often it’s my Mom who has the typical reaction of shaking her head at me and deciding it’s not worth asking for a better explanation. My wife, while not as well versed as I am, is immersed enough in Internet and gaming culture because of her association with me that she’ll often toss out a meme or joke just as readily only to have me be the only person in the room who picks up on it. At which point we try explaining it, usually to my Mom, who shakes her head at both of us and tries to be satisfied that at least we’re a happy, if somewhat deranged, couple. Even so my mom and, oddly enough, my dad are both immersed enough to at least know what LOLCats are. Hell, my dad actually reads Cute Overload regularly and shares what he finds with me.

There’s so much of that stuff on the Net, though, that it can be difficult keeping up. In the examples given above by KPG I was already familiar with LOLCats, Long Cats, and who the hell Anonymous are (is?), but I wasn’t particularly familiar with “Jesus Christ, it’s a lion, get in the car!” So I did what I do when I need to edumacate myself and Googled it. Turns out its likely origins is with a LOLCat picture, one that I’ve actually seen before and forgot about. It’s also said that it’s what is known as a Rogue Punchline, which is a form of humor I’ve practiced for years without ever even realizing it. I ended up spending a half hour going through various Wikipedia and Uncyclopedia articles learning about the various types of memes and jokes to be found on the Net. Many I am already familiar with, but there were more than a few I wasn’t.

The appeal, for me anyway, is the subversive nature of that kind of humor. The first time you use it around someone they’ll look at you like you’re an idiot, but if you continue to use it repeatedly around said person they’ll slowly start to understand it and find it actually funny. One of the people I worked with at the job I just quit was a fellow by the name of Nate who is a walking treasure trove of memes and jokes of this sort. I knew I had found a fellow Internet Geek when one day he tossed out the classic: My Pokemons, let me show you them, which is easily modified to “My X, let me show you them” where you replace X with whatever the hell you want to show someone.  He would use these jokes with wild abandon in his conversations and half the time I was the only person giggling his ass off over them. Which just goes back to what KPG was saying in his entry. It was kind of fun being one of the few people in the group to know what the hell Nate was prattling on about and I reciprocated in kind probably just as often.

Having gotten this far into this entry I suddenly realize that I don’t really have a point to all of this other than to give KPG some link-loving for helping me with another paradigm shift. Chalk it up to having gotten up way too early this morning without actually firing up the brain first.

IBM Internet Security System’s X-Force annual report is out.

The folks over at ArsTechnica.com have a summary of IBM’s latest annual report on the state of security and malware threats which you should read:

Annual IBM security report paints worrisome picture for 2008 – ArsTechnica.com

IBM Internet Security System’s X-Force has released its annual report (PDF) on malware trends and statistics from last year. 2007 saw some significant changes in malware distribution, and there’s reason to think that some of these shifts mark the beginning of new attack patterns rather than small abnormalities. The following are some of the highlights from the report:

  • Reported vulnerabilities in 2007 were down five percent compared to 2006, but the number of those vulnerabilities that were classified as severe rose by 28 percent.
  • Microsoft, Apple, Oracle, IBM, and Cisco reported the most vulnerabilities, but collectively account for only 13.6 percent of all reported vulnerabilities.
  • 90 percent of the 2007 vulnerabilities were exploitable from a remote location, up 1 percent from 2006
  • Most in-the-wild exploits are being generated by web toolkits. Prevalence of these toolkits has risen dramatically since they appeared in 2006.

There’s a couple of things in the report that stood out to me. The first being that, contrary to what most people seem to believe, Microsoft products aren’t miles and away worse in terms of security than those of Apple, Oracle, IBM, and Cicso. Of those top 5 vendors a good 80% of the known vulnerabilities have been patched and while that still leaves 20% of them unpatched, that’s still a boatload better than the 50/50 ratio that everyone else tends to have.

The second thing that stood out is the fact that the percentage of exploits that could be accessed remotely jumped from 43.6 percent in 2000 to 89.4 percent this year. That’s huge and shows just how valuable taking over your PC has become to these people:

Trojans were the overall darlings of the year, accounting for 26 percent of all malware distributed. Worms, adware, viruses, and downloaders also grabbed significant chunks of the pie, while keyloggers, rootkits, and spyware all were all confined to small pieces of the market. Trojans were also responsible for the largest number of malcode additions in 2007—a total of 109,246 new Trojans were detected in 2007, compared to 64,173 worms, 55,873 adware programs, and 48,889 viruses.

Those numbers are staggering, though it helps to keep in mind that a lot of these programs are variations on a theme as each hacker modifies the code to try and avoid detection and/or adapt it to their specific goals. It all should act as a reminder of the need to keep your anti-virus software up to date, make use of a decent firewall, and be very careful about knowing exactly what you’re installing on your PC. Some of the more recent, but less successful, exploits have tried to spread themselves through PDF and MP3 files. While some of the most successful exploits are the fake media codecs from sites that tempt you with some outrageous or titillating video that requires you to install a media codec you’ve never heard of before you can watch the clip. When you do you’re suddenly infected with malicious downloader or spyware. 

Time Warner Cable in Texas is testing out bandwidth caps on new subscribers.

Several folks sent along links to this Broadband Reports article about plans by Time Warner Cable try out hard bandwidth caps with possible overage charges in Texas:

Time Warner Cable may be exploring the possibility of implementing overage charges for its RoadRunner cable broadband service. According to excerpts from a leaked internal memo obtained by Broadband Reports, the company will be testing a usage-based system in the Beaumont, Texas market. The system is aimed at gaining additional revenue from “5% of subscribers who utilize over half of the total network bandwidth.” The trial will determine whether it’s practical to deploy such a system nationally.

The memo claims new customers in the Beaumont market will be placed on metered billing plans where overage charges will apply. Those customers will be given a special website allowing users to track their bandwidth consumption and upgrade to faster tiers if they consistently use more bandwidth than allowed for their tier. Existing customers will be able to track consumption, but will remain on flat-rate billing. An excerpt from the memo:

    The introduction of Consumption Based Billing will enable TWC to charge customer based upon usage, impacting only 5% of subscribers who utilize over half of the total network bandwidth.

    The trial in the Beaumont, TX division will apply to new HSD customer only, will provide a destination for customer to track usage for each month and will enable customers to upgrade from one tier to the next to avoid payment of overage charges. Existing and new subscribers will have tracking capability, however only new subscribers will be charged incrementally for bandwidth usage above the cap.

    Following the trial, a determination will be made as to whether or not existing subscribers should be charged. Only residential subscribers will be impacted. Trial in Beaumont, TX will begin by Q1. We will be testing technical backend as well as Marketing and Messaging to customers. We will use the results of the trial to evaluate results for possible future nationwide rollouts.

It is rumored that Comcast has also conducted such tests, but never implemented the system because they were afraid of consumer backlash. We recently spoke to several ISPs and an industry analyst, all of whom shared those same concerns. ISPs are under pressure from investors to gain more revenue from higher-consumption users, but have had great success marketing the “all you can eat” business model to consumers.

Except, of course, that none of the ISPs actually offer all-you-can-eat services, they just claim to do so. Comcast is particularly notorious for having secret bandwidth caps that, should you exceed them, will often result in the cancellation of your service, but they won’t tell you what those limits are or provide any tools for assessing if you’re in risk of crossing them. So the idea of “unlimited Internet service” is, at best, bullshit marketing speak.

My first thought was that I was surprised no one has tried to offer a variety of service levels based on how much bandwidth you use previously, but then I thought about how useful claiming “unlimited service” is for marketing purposes and realized I was being silly. If this were done correctly it could be a way for folks who don’t use a ton of bandwidth (like say my parents) to save a few bucks on their cable modem service. Even as connected as I am my bandwidth usage is probably way below what the top 5% of bandwidth hogs tend to use. While I do occasionally download a TV show episode (Doctor Who, Torchwood) or the occasional application, I’m not the sort who leaves his PC on all the time downloading huge video files or MP3s. Most of my bandwidth is used for blogging, browsing, email and online game playing. I have no idea how much bandwidth I use in a given month, but I’d be willing to bet that even in our house with no less than five PCs sharing the cable modem service we have that our total bandwidth consumption is relatively moderate.

If the cable companies started making their limits known and/or offering different levels of service for different prices, that wouldn’t necessarily be a bad thing. I think a lot of folk’s first instinct would be to go with whatever illusionary unlimited plan might be offered, but after a bit of thought and education it could actually be of benefit assuming that reasonable pricing prevails. For that matter, the cable companies should be considering offering service levels that offer not just obscene download speeds, but comparable upstream speeds as well aimed specifically at those users who do want to trade huge video/music files or host game servers again basing it on the bandwidth used. There’s already a fair number of people out there who are technically violating their TOS by hosting servers of one sort or another on their cable modem connections which shows there’s at least desire for such service offerings.

At any rate, it’ll be interesting to see how the Time Warner experiment plays out in Texas and how customers react to it. This could be a bad thing or a good thing depending on how they go about it.

PS3 2.10 firmware adds DivX/XviD playback support.

Sony released the latest firmware for the PS3 yesterday which adds, among other things, support for the DivX codec making the PS3 a DivX Certified device. (That means game developers can use it in games unlike the Xbox 360 where only file playback is supported.) I’ve been looking forward to this for awhile because when new episodes of Doctor Who, Torchwood and other British shows are aired in England I tend to grab the XviD encoded files uploaded to the net so I can keep up until the DVDs are released here in the States. My purchase of the PS3 has been worthwhile in part for its ability to stream media from my PC to the TV set over my wireless network, but until yesterday I had to have my PC convert the files over to MPG4 on the fly and not only does that slow things down a bit, but it reduces the video quality considerably.

According to some reports on the net there seems to be a couple of quirks to the PS3’s playback in that if you’re using Windows Media Player 11 as your media server then DivX files will stream just fine, but XviD won’t (the two are more or less the same codec, just one is open source). Or at least that’s what some folks are reporting. I managed to stream a couple of XviD encoded files last night using nothing more than WMP11 on Vista without any issue at all and the picture quality was fabulous. If you use an alternative server such as TVersity then both file types will stream just fine or you can just copy the XviD file to your PS3’s hard drive or a memory stick and it’ll work fine that way as well. So if you’re trying it out and not having complete success there’s some work arounds you can test out.

I couldn’t be happier, though, as this saves me having to burn DVDs every time I want to watch shows on the big TV and requires a lot less setup than having to transcribe the files on the fly as I was doing previously. There’s a couple of restrictions in that the file size is limited to 2GB and you can’t play files encoded with older versions of DivX, but those shouldn’t impact my usage of the feature much. Other additions in this firmware include a voice changer feature for use with voice and video chat (not sure what for, but it might be fun to play games sounding like one of the Chipmunks) and the ability to use Remote Play to play PS1 games you’ve loaded onto your PS3 (either as a download or with a disc in the drive) on your PSP over the Internet, which is pretty nifty.

The magic of Internet access at Public Libraries.

So here I am once again facing a fair amount of downtime at work, but with just enough open tickets that I can’t venture too far from the campus lest I get called back. Fortunately there’s a rather nice public library just across the street that provides free Internet access without any content filters. So not only can I post to my blog, but I can also see it and leave a comment or two. My sister often makes use of her public library to check in on her blog so it occurred to me I could do the same.

Of course there’s always the danger that someone has installed a key logger on the system so I’m making use of my handy U3 enabled Sandisk Cruzer flash drive which not only has Firefox as a self-contained installation holding all my bookmarks and temporary files, but comes with the U3 edition of Avast Antivirus specifically designed to offer on the go protection. The library has done a pretty good job of locking down the system, though, as the start menu has been removed completely and icons placed on the desktop in order to allow the launching of applications. They’ve also disabled the right-click context menus in Windows XP for some reason which makes using the spell checker in Firefox impossible, but at least I can still see that I’ve typed a word incorrectly.

Naturally just as soon as I got settled here and started in on this fluff entry about how I’m braving the world of Public Library Internet access my cellphone rings and they have a ticket they need me to check up on. So it looks like my time here will be rather short as I need to finish up and head back over to the campus to see if the build team has managed to get their collective heads out of their collective asses and figured out how to do their job properly.

But at least I know I have a resource available to make use of from time to time.

Fuck you AT&T.

AT&T just released a new Terms of Service agreement which has a provision that says they can cancel your service if you say bad things about them:

5.1 Suspension/Termination. Your Service may be suspended or terminated if your payment is past due and such condition continues un-remedied for thirty (30) days. In addition, AT&T may immediately terminate or suspend all or a portion of your Service, any Member ID, electronic mail address, IP address, Universal Resource Locator or domain name used by you, without notice, for conduct that AT&T believes (a) violates the Acceptable Use Policy; (b) constitutes a violation of any law, regulation or tariff (including, without limitation, copyright and intellectual property laws) or a violation of these TOS, or any applicable policies or guidelines, or(c) tends to damage the name or reputation of AT&T, or its parents, affiliates and subsidiaries.

Fortunately I don’t use AT&T for Internet access and after reading the above I’m not all that likely to do so in the future, but I do use their cellular network at the moment. At least until my contract expires and I can cancel it which I’m seriously considering doing because of bullshit terms like the above. Presumably the clause is aimed more at activities — such as hacking using an AT&T account — more so than writing something critical of AT&T, but they could use it to censor critics if they felt like it and that’s enough to make me avoid them.

Found via Slashdot.